I started working with quinoa in Brazil. It's fluffy, light texture and delicate, nutty flavor as well as its powerhouse nutritional profile all interested me. I was inspired to include quinoa by a chocolate-rice pudding I had made when I was younger. It's fun to make this dessert for friends who are unfamiliar with quinoa. They will be so surprised to discover how delicious it is.
Note: You can create a pretty presentation by serving the dessert in martini glasses. Garnish simply with the whipped cream, coconut, and a scattering of ripe fresh berries such as raspberries or sliced strawberries, or let your imagination go wild and layer the pudding with whipped cream, raspberry jam, fresh berries, orange segments, and caramelized bananas, and then top with mint leaves and a mango fan.
This amount of hot paprika will give you just a little heat in the back of your throat. If you want more heat than that, double the amount.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast it in the oven, stirring occasionally until light gold, about 10 minutes. (Coconut can burn easily, so be sure to watch carefully as the flakes begin to brown.) Pour the coconut into a bowl and set aside until needed. You can toast the coconut several days ahead and store it in a clean glass jar.
Using an electric mixer, whip the cream with 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a cold mixing bowl until it holds firm peaks. Refrigerate the whipped cream until needed.
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Add a pinch of salt and whisk in the quinoa. Simmer vigorously, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Drain the quinoa and then return it to the saucepan.
Add the milk, coconut milk, ½ teaspoon salt, and the remaining sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook very slowly until the quinoa is very tender, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the quinoa does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder, cinnamon, and paprika.
In a small saucepan, soften the gelatin in the cold water for several minutes. Melt the gelatin by placing the pan over low heat. Stir with a rubber spatula until melted. Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the bittersweet chocolate on low power. Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl and set it in the sink.
Transfer the quinoa mixture to a large mixing bowl. With a rubber spatula, stir the gelatin and chocolate into the quinoa. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir occasionally until the mixture is cool to the touch and has begun to thicken. (Don't wander off; the mixture will set quickly once cool.)
Immediately remove the bowl from the ice bath and rapidly but thoroughly fold in the whipped cream. Pour the mixture into dessert glasses or bowls and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream, and some berries, then sprinkle the top with the toasted coconut.